What Is Domestic/Family Violence?

Family violence, also called domestic violence, intimate partner violence, relationship violence or inter-personal violence, is a pattern of intentionally violent or controlling behavior used by a person against a family member or intimate partner to gain and maintain power and control over that person, during and/or after the relationship. An intimate partner may be a married or dating couple or joined in domestic partnership.

Some examples of “intentionally violent or controlling behavior” include:

  • control over someone’s schedule
  • doesn’t allow access to the phone and/or monitors calls
  • limits use of the car or doesn’t allow a car
  • persistent calling at work to check up or not allowing someone to work
  • doesn’t permit use of birth control
  • name calling and / or threatening family, friends, pets
  • destruction of property

Notice that the above examples are non-physical. “Intentionally violent or controlling behavior” can include physical abuse (hitting, punching, strangling, etc.) but does not have to. Other types of “intentionally violent or controlling behavior” include sexual abuse, economic or financial abuse, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, stalking and isolation. Notice also the timeframe mentioned in the definition, “and/or after.” The violent or controlling behavior may not (and usually does not) end after the relationship is over. This is one reason that “leaving” does not mean that the abuse is over.

Click to view the classic Power & Control wheel (English | Spanish) – a tool to help people understand how an abuser gains and maintains power and control over someone.
Click to view the LGBTQ Power & Control wheel.
Click to view a wheel which looks at healthy relationships, the “Equality” wheel.

So….why do they stay? In addition to leaving not being an end to abuse, there are a lot of reasons why women stay. Here are some of those reasons:

  • fear
  • love
  • lack of outside resources to support her/himself (job, money, friends, family, etc.)
  • immigration status
  • cultural considerations
  • religion
  • inability to speak English well or well enough to be understood

It’s important to remember that the abused person need only have one reason for staying. But, it doesn’t matter what it is because no one deserves to be abused.

No one deserves to be abused. And, no one, except the abuser is responsible for the abuse.
The abuser is making a choice to abuse someone. It isn’t “just the way that they are” or a relationship “gone bad” —these are excuses. Domestic violence is a repeated choice that the abuser is responsible for. When one person is afraid of the other, a dynamic of power and control enters the relationship. Once that happens, there isn’t any going back. The relationship cannot be restored to the way that it once was.

People who abuse others do so in order to feel better about themselves. While they may be mentally ill, the abuse is not a result of their illness. Similarly, they may also be an addict or alcoholic but their addiction is not the reason for the abuse.

So, what can you do?

  • Tell others about Compass Center and our services
  • Be supportive and believe others. Express concern and ASK if they are okay, if they don’t seem to be doing well.
  • Speak out when others say victim blaming comments
  • Talk to your children about domestic violence and teach them that no one deserves to be abused.

Photographer as Witness: A Portrait of Domestic Violence

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